Tibet is one of the world’s most mystical and mysterious lands, one in which much of the culture is the same now as it was a thousand years ago. A massively Buddhist land, Tibet is one of the most popular places to visit in Asia. It receives millions of tourists flocking to the region every year. For many, it is their first time to travel to Tibet, the roof of the world. And most do not know what to expect or what is worth seeing on their first Tibet tour.
As with any first-time trip, knowing where to go and what to see can be confusing. Especially when there is as much to see and do as there is in Tibet. Officially known as the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. Tibet lies on the world’s highest plateau and shares the world’s highest mountain. It has the world’s highest monastery. Add to those the world’s highest railway, the world’s highest railway station, and railway pass. The world’s highest capital city, the world’s highest freshwater lake, and another four of the world’s highest mountains above 8,000 meters all are lies in Tibet.
But having said that it is not easy to travel to Tibet. There are certain things to understand before visiting Tibet. The Tibet Travel Permit must be obtained and you need to book Tibet Tours packages from the reputed travel agency in Tibet. They mainly provide two types of tours. That is private Tibet tours and group Tibet tours.
Top attractions for first-time visitors to Tibet
The Tibetan plateau is a record-breaking land. In more ways than one, it is the beloved home of the devoutly religious Tibetan people. Filled with monasteries, monks, and, lamas. As well as lakes, mountains and snow leopards. This unique land is filled with things to see and do. But for the first-timer to Tibet, there are some places that you simply must visit on your first trip. As they will give you the best insight into the Tibetan culture, the Buddhist religion, and the sheer beauty of the high-altitude Tibetan plateau. Here are some of the top attractions in Tibet.
Built in the 17th century by the fifth Dalai Lama, the Potala Palace lies on the site of a much older palace/fortress. Lying on the top of Moburi (Red Hill), the palace looks down on the city it used to govern, the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. Once the center of Tibetan governance, until the palace at Norbulingka was constructed and opened in 1755, this stunning red and white structure dominates the Lhasa skyline, framed by the snow-clad Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains behind it.
Noted for being the most sacred temple in Tibetan Buddhism. This ancient temple dates back to the time of the ancient Tibetan Empire, and the old kings of Tibet. Built in the 7th century by the 33rd Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo, on the occasion of his wedding to Princess Wencheng of the ancient Tang Dynasty. It was a unique and sacred temple in the center of Lhasa is the beating heart of Tibetan Buddhism. Surrounded daily by pilgrims that come to prostrate and pray at its gates, the temple also holds the most revered, and possibly oldest, the statue of Buddha in the world, the Jowo Rinpoche.
Yamdrok and Namtso Lakes
Two of the Great Three Holy Lakes of Tibet, Lakes Yamdrok and Namtso lie within easy reach of Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, and can be visited within a one-day excursion, though Namtso really should be a two-day trip. Tibet is renowned for having thousands of lakes of all sizes spread across the plateau, but none are more beautiful and more sacred than Lake Namtso, the “Heavenly Lake”, and Lake Yamdrok, the talisman and “life-spirit” of Tibet. The beauty of these lakes is spectacular, and a trip to either is worth the time it takes to get there, to gaze upon the sacred turquoise waters and stroll around the beautiful lakeshore.
Located in the second city of Tibet, Shigatse, Tashilhunpo Monastery is the traditional seat of the second highest incarnation in Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lama. Built-in 1447 by the 1st Dalai Lama, it is one of the most culturally and historically significant monasteries in Tibet. Once described as making “an impression which no time will ever efface from my mind”, this stunning monastery lies on the southern slopes of the Nyiseri Mountain, to the west of Shigatse City.
Well known around the world as the highest mountain on the planet, Mount Everest lies in the far west of Tibet, on the border with Nepal. At an elevation of 8,848 meters above sea level. The summit of this massive peak lies directly on the border between China and Nepal. The Northern Everest Base Camp (EBC) is one of the most visited sites in Tibet. It is a major tourist attraction and many people’s main reason for traveling to the plateau. With stunning views of the mountain from the base camp, EBC is the best place from which to view Mount Everest on both sides of the mountain.
Things to Know before you go to Tibet
Before leaving for Tibet, there are certain things you will need to know about this high-altitude land. As a first-time traveler to Tibet, a few little snippets of information can help to make your first trip to the plateau an outstanding success.
Apply for Tibet Travel Permit
The Tibet Travel Permit(TTP) is the primary permit for travelers to Tibet and is the most important document you will need. Applications for the TTP cannot be made in person, and have to be applied for by the tour operator on your behalf. Once you have booked your tour with the travel agency. Then they will make the application using scanned copies of your passport and Chinese Entry Visa.
Processing of the permit takes around 20 days, so it is important to book your Tibet tour as early as possible, to avoid any delays. The permit is required to board the train or flight to Tibet from your departure city in China. It is required as a permit for travel only in the area of Lhasa Prefecture. Outside Lhasa, other permits are also required.
Pay attention to high altitude sickness
Altitude sickness, sometimes known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), can be a debilitating illness that can ruin a good holiday. AMS is caused by the lower density of air in the atmosphere at higher altitudes, which leaves you breathless and dizzy, with headaches and some nausea as the primary symptoms. Knowing the main symptoms of altitude sickness, and what to do about it, is important when traveling in Tibet.
Altitude sickness can strike anyone, and having been to high altitudes before. By not suffered from it does not mean you are immune. Nor does it have anything to do with how fit and healthy you are. Since it is the lack of oxygen in each breath that causes it. However, the body does soon acclimatize to the increase in altitude. With some rest and by avoiding strenuous exercise, smoking, and alcohol. And also maintaining a healthy diet can help to make sure the harsher symptoms do not show up.
Try to experience a Tibet Train journey
The trip to Tibet from China can be done in one of two ways, by flight or by train. While the flight is faster, it is also much costlier. The train, however, is a much cheaper option and has the added advantage of giving you some amazing views of northwest China and Tibet as you ride the rails to the roof of the world.
By taking a train to Tibet is one of the most spectacular experiences of any trip to Tibet. The trains that climb up to the heady heights of the plateau depart from seven gateway cities across China. Starting in Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou, and Xining, the trains all pass through the Qinghai Provincial capital, Xining, before taking the Qinghai Tibet Railway across the Kunlun and Tanggula Mountain ranges, and down onto the plains of the plateau to get to Tibet.
The trip by train is fast becoming the more popular way for people to get to Tibet, and with the prices being less than half of the cost of a single flight to Lhasa, they provide a cheaper alternative for those traveling on a budget.